INDIANAPOLIS - For the first time, a victim’s family is speaking out in an emotional interview regarding an alleged day care drugging case.
Stephanie Gribble, an unlicensed day care provider, is charged with six felony counts of neglect of a dependent after four children were hospitalized from her day care for apparent drug overdoses.
Doctors determined the most likely candidates for the source of the overdose were Benadryl and Risperidone.
Christine Daves told Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney two of the children hospitalized are her daughters, 5 year old Morgan and 2 year old Riley.
“We want to know why she did it,” said Daves in an exclusive interview. “We want to know what her thought process was.”
Daves, her husband, and her mother, Teresa Rhodes, met Kenney outside of a courtroom Wednesday to share their story.
“We want everyone to know the kids are a lot better,” said Rhodes. “It was very hard. They trusted her.”
Daves and her family had hoped to catch a glimpse of Gribble during a bond hearing, but the hearing was canceled and Gribble will remain in jail.
Gribble faces up to 55 years in prison.
Her day care on Gemini Drive on Indianapolis’ east side remains closed.
“I don’t want to see it happen to other kids,” said Daves. “I’ve been angry. I’ve had a lot of thoughts go through my mind, but the only thing I can think about is my kids.”
Daves said she was unaware Gribble was unlicensed and never noticed any red flags.
“They never had any symptoms or anything, so I never questioned it,” said Daves.
Daves was also unaware Gribble has a history with the state Family and Social Services Administration dating back to 2008, including a 2012 injunction intended to stop Gribble from operating.
FSSA has no authority to notify parents about disciplinary actions in an unlicensed day care, according to FSSA spokesperson Marni Lemons.
“Unlicensed providers aren’t even required to keep records,” said Lemons.
According to records obtained by the Call 6 Investigators, Gribble changed names as well as locations multiple times over the past six years.
“I just assumed she was having financial problems or couldn’t afford it,” said Daves. “I never asked.”
On February 12, Daves picked up her children from Gribble’s day care and took them home.
“Our five year old was asking me for a snack and as she was walking towards me, she started leaning over to the side and said ‘Mommy, my back hurts,’” said Daves. “We decided to take her to the emergency room, by the time we got her to the car and we were halfway there, her head started leaning backwards, her hands started clinching up.”
Once Morgan got to the hospital, it got worse, according to Daves.
“Her tongue was hanging out of her mouth, she was drooling, she couldn’t talk,” said Daves.
Shortly after, her 2 year old, Riley, was brought to the hospital showing the same symptoms.
“She ended up falling asleep and we couldn’t get her up for hours and hours,” said Daves.
The probable cause echoes Daves’ statement about Riley.
"The medical staff also gave her three doses of an intravenous medication in an attempt to wake her, but she never did wake up or open her eyes," read the probable cause. "The most she would do was moan when they moved her entire body. She eventually revived somewhat when they transferred her to Community North late that evening, but remained lethargic and slept through much of the following day or so."
Daves said she heard about Gribble through a friend and took her eldest daughter to the day care eight years ago.
“I questioned her about it, and the only thing she would say is they used to make her sleep all the time,” said Daves. “I just hate that I didn’t know about it sooner. It makes me feel horrible, but I’ve never seen any symptoms.”
Police said Gribble initially denied giving any medication to the children, but eventually said she had given two of the children cold medicine because they had "runny noses."
She also admitted to giving the 2-year-old child medicine because "she was crying so much."
“I don’t understand why,” said Daves. “Kids cry.”
Gribble is facing a more serious charge, a Class B felony, for the alleged drugging of 2 year old Riley because the child lost consciousness.
Daves said Gribble texted and called when the children were in the hospital, but denied any wrongdoing.
“She thought it could have been some vanilla wafers she had got because I guess that’s what all the kids got for a snack,” said Daves. “She continued to tell me there were no medications in the house.”
Daves said she feared her children may die due to the overdose.
“It tore me apart,” said Daves. “That’s a scary thought for a mother when you have a child in two different (hospital) rooms.”
Gribble entered a not guilty plea at a hearing Monday morning and a trial date
was set for April 21.
She is being held on $40,000 bond.
Gribble charged parents $65 per child per week, according to Daves.
Prosecutors say at least six children in Gribble's care were drugged, with at least four needing hospitalization.
"Anytime a parent leaves their responsibility with another individual, they have a right to expect a basic level of care," said Kristina Korobov, special victims supervisor. "No matter where you leave your child, there is never an excuse to do what is alleged in these particular facts."
According to the probable cause, an 11-month-old girl in Gribble's care "appeared drunk, wasn't responding when spoken to … there were bubbles of spit coming from her mouth, she was swaying back and forth and she was grunting."
A fourth child, a 5-year-old boy, was taken to the emergency room when he was found acting odd and drooling.
"He was sitting there with his head hanging down sideways onto his chest with his tongue hanging out and drool coming from his mouth. The entire front of his shirt was soaked with his own drool. He couldn't talk at all and was shaking a little," according to court documents.
Prosecutors say parents need to do their research, as Gribble was operating without a license.
"This is not the first time we've heard about unlicensed day cares, and there being an issue with them and the lack of monitoring," said Korobov.
As the Call 6 Investigators have reported , unlicensed day cares do not have to submit to background checks or do CPR training, safe sleep training or drug testing.
According to court documents, the children told investigators that Gribble would regularly give them "grape medicine" before nap time to help them sleep. A 4-year-old who attended the day care, but was not hospitalized, told police that Gribble had given her OCD medication intended for Gribble's 8-year-old son.
Another child said Gribble had given her a pink pill to eat and purple liquid to drink.
Both Risperidone and Benadryl sometimes come in the form of a pink pill. Benadryl is also sometimes sold in the form of a purple liquid.
During a search of Gribble's home, which doubled as the day care business, police found an empty 30 mL bottle of Risperidone, an empty bottle of grape-flavored "Assured" brand children's night time cold and cough medicine and a small oral syringe used to administer medication by mouth.
The active ingredient in the cold and cough medicine is Diphenhydramine, which is marketed under the trade name Benadryl.
Gribble said her son had been prescribed Risperidone for his OCD, but couldn't account for the bottle being empty when the prescription had been filled just three days before.
Risperidone, an anti-psychotic drug that affects neurotransmitters in the brain, can cause seizures and other potentially deadly side effects, according to Indiana Poison Control's Dr. Jerry Snow.
"[It is] extremely reckless and irresponsible for a day care provider to give young children in her care any amount of Risperidone that wasn't prescribed to them," Snow said.
In November 2012, the Attorney General's Office obtained an injunction for a then-named Stephanie Smith to stop her from operating an illegal day care at 11328 Stoeppelwerth Drive in Indianapolis.
Marni Lemons, a spokeswoman for the Family and Social Services Administration, told Kenney on Jan. 29 the agency followed up and Smith appeared to have moved out of the residence.
When an illegal day care is issued a cease-and-desist letter, it is warned the attorney general may seek a civil penalty of $100 a day for each day of operating without a license.
The state is still attempting to collect $3,300 in civil penalties from Gribble/Smith.
"It is important that parents understand the licensing process and that they be vigilant about ensuring that their children are being cared for by licensed providers that are operating legally," Lemons said.
"For example, child care providers operating out of a home must be licensed if they care for more than five unrelated children. FSSA provides information on licensed and registered providers at www.childcarefinder.in.gov ."